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Lepus arcticus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA LAGOMORPHA LEPORIDAE

Scientific Name: Lepus arcticus
Species Authority: Ross, 1819
Common Name/s:
English Arctic Hare
Taxonomic Notes: The taxonomic status of the Arctic Hare remains unclear, with some authorities suggesting, based on cranial or other morphometric measurements, that they are conspecific with L. othus, and/or L. timidus. L. othus and L. arcticus also are known to share similar behavioural and ecological characteristics yet, L. othus is geographically isolated and possesses different skull and incisor morphology from L. arcticus, and thus may warrant distinct taxonomic status. Wu et al. (2005) suggests that L. arcticus be included in L. timidus as "a single circumpolar species," based on molecular phylogenetics. However, Ben Slimen et al. (2008a) suggest that in the case of genus Lepus, whose evolution is "rapid and to some extent reticulated," mtDNA should only be regarded as preliminary evidence of species designation of lack thereof. Ben Slimen et al. (2008b) suggest that a more comprehensive examination that examines, "a combined phylogenetic, phylogeographic, and population genetic approach,…, based on various nuclear and mitochondrial markers and including other biological characters, such as phenotypic and morphometric data," would better elucidate taxonomic standing of Lepus species.

There are currently nine recognized subspecies: Lepus arcticus andersoni, L. a. arcticus, L. a. bangsii, L. a. banksicola, L. a. groenlandicus, L. a. hubbardi, L. a. labradorius, L. a. monstrabilis, and L. a. porsildi (Hall 1981).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Murray, D. & Smith, A.T.
Reviewer/s: Johnston, C.H. and Smith, A.T. (Lagomorph Red List Authority)
Justification:
Lepus arcticus is a widespread species. Populations seem to be healthy, overall, although there seems to be little monitoring occurring at the moment.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The geographic range of Lepus arcticus consists of arctic tundra of Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, including Arctic islands, and western Newfoundland. L. arcticus is also located along the coastal regions of Greenland where ice is not present (Parker 1977). It also occurs in northern Quebec and a small portion of northern Manitoba, along Hudson Bay. The southern range periphery borders with treeline. Some Arctic hares may move into the treeline during winter.
Countries:
Native:
Canada (Labrador, Manitoba, Newfoundland I, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Québec); Greenland
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Population is more or less continuous and is thought to be stable and healthy. Populations may undergo cyclic fluctuations. However, little/no monitoring of populations is ongoing.
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Lepus arcticus requires tundra habitat lacking tree cover. Home range for this species is variable, ranging from 9-290 ha (Murray 2003). L. arcticus is a ground-dwelling species, but will utilize natural shelters or create small dens in the snow to regulate body temperatures (Gray 1993). This species is omnivorous, but it derives the bulk of its nutritional requirements from woody plants (Best and Henry 1994). L. arcticus has an average of one to two litters per year, with an average litter size of five to six (Best and Henry 1994). Gestation is approximately 53 days for this species (Parker 1977). There is uncertainty regarding the breeding season for L. arcticus (Best and Henry 1994). The season may extend from April to mid-September, as inferred from male gonad enlargement (Best and Henry 1994). The total length is 48.0-67.8 cm (Hall and Kelson 1959).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Southern populations may be subject to habitat loss, perhaps climate change as well, although this is highly speculative.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Some jurisdictions have seasonal limits on Arctic hare harvest, but for the most part there are no restrictions due to the fact that most of the harvest probably is of Native origin.

Bibliography [top]

Ben Slimen, H., Suchentrunk, F. and Ben Ammar Elgaaied, A. 2008. On shortcomings of using mtDNA sequence divergence for the systematics of hares (genus Lepus): An example from cape hares. Mammalian Biology 72: 25-32.

Ben Slimen, H., Suchentrunk, F., Stamatis, C., Mamuris, Z., Sert, H., Alves, P. C., Kryger, U., Shahin, A. B. and Ben Ammar Elgaaied, A. 2008. Population genetics of cape and brown hares (Lepus capensis and L. europaeus): A test of Petter's hypothesis of conspecificity. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 36: 22-39.

Best, T. L. and Henry, T. H. 1994. Lepus arcticus. Mammalian Species 457: 1-9.

Gray, D. R. 1993. Behavioural adaptations to arctic winter: Shelter seeking by arctic hare (Lepus arcticus). Arctic 46(4): 340-353.

Hall, E. R. 1981. The Mammals of North America. John Wiley and Sons, New York, USA.

Hall, E. R. and Kelson, K. R. 1959. The Mammals of North America. Ronald Press, New York, USA.

Murray, D. L. 2003. Snowshoe hare and other hares (Lepus americanus and allies). In: G. A. Feldhamer, B. Thompson and J. A. Chapman (eds), Wild mammals of North America: Biology, management and conservation, pp. 147-175. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.

Parker, G. R. 1977. Morphology, reproduction, diet, and behavior of Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus monstrabilis) on Axel Heiberg Island, Northwest-Territories. Canadian Field-Naturalist 91(1): 8-18.

Wu, C. H., Wu, J. P., Bunch, T. D., Li, Q. W., Wang, Y. X. and Zhang, Y. P. 2005. Molecular phylogenetics and biogeography of Lepus in Eastern Asia based on mitochondrial DNA sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37(1): 45-61.

Citation: Murray, D. & Smith, A.T. 2008. Lepus arcticus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 19 April 2014.
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